CLINTON — For a brief time, the Clinton Lumberkings brought their record out of the losing column, doing so in thrilling fashion.
Facing Beloit in Game 1 of a home doubleheader, each team could hardly put a runner on base, let alone in scoring position. When Clinton firstbaseman Tyler Ard stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, it was one of the few times — all game — a batter appeared with a runner on; Brock Hebert was brought in to pinch run following a Jordy Lara walk.
Ard made that rare moment count. With one out, he took Austin House’s third pitch to the left-field wall, easily allowing the speedy Hebert to score. Ard’s reward was a dugout-clearing Lumberkings bench mobbing him after rounding second base, a customary walk-off celebration, with Clinton on top 1-0.
“Every hit counts, and in that situation, I was just trying not to do too much — just try to get a base hit,” Ard said. “He left it out over the plate and I was able to get ahold of it.”
He added that the walk-off was “probably” his most significant moment this season. The hit was Clinton’s second of the day, third overall between both teams.
Starter Rusty Shellhorn earned a no-decision in a game where pitching clearly ruled, according to Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca. The left-handed reliever made just his second start on the year, allowing one hit in four innings with three strikeouts.
“He had some quality innings and just gave us a chance,” Menchaca said of Shellhorn. “It really came down to who was going to get the big hit at the end of the night, and it was us. Pitching was good for both teams.”
With the win the Lumberkings moved to 18-18. It looked as though momentum from the walk-off carried over into Game 2. Designated hitter Patrick Kivlehan cleared the bases on a two-run triple in the bottom of the first inning. He later scored on a sacrifice hit from Lara, putting Clinton up 3-0.
But the Snappers chipped away at that lead over the next two innings. Renato Nunez scored on a sacrifice in the second. In the third, Chris Bostick drove in Brett Vertigan on a double to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Then, Beloit took the lead after a three-run fourth inning. It might’ve been more were it not for a spectacular Gaby Guerrero throw out. On what was surely an RBI double by Bostick to the right-field corner, Guerrero picked up the ball near the right-field corner as Vertigan rounded third base. Guerrero threw a 300-foot strike to catcher Tyler Marlette before Vertigan could start his slide, ending the inning in a tag out.
Offensively, though, the Lumberkings could not find their bats. Over the last six innings, Clinton managed only three runners on base. Beloit, meanwhile, distanced itself with five more runs in an error-filled seventh inning, ultimately winning 10-3.
It also brought Clinton back to a losing record.
“They shut us down after that first inning,” Menchaca said, adding that the team is still looking for its first sweep of the year. “We just kind of sat on (the lead) and couldn’t do much after that.”
The Lumberkings continue to host Beloit tonight and Thursday, both games starting at 6:30 p.m. at Ashford University Field.